Legal news is never short of reports on patent battles and claims, however, it is rare that the news includes viable solutions to actually ending the war on patent trolls.
While the answer to patent trolls purchasing dormant patents with no intention of ever utilizing them is unknown, the solution doesn’t seem to be on the horizon just yet either. Although, a recent report claims that companies may have found a controversial new weapon to support them in the ongoing battle against intellectual property lawsuits.
According to the Wall Street Journal, The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) is small but powerful authority that allows a facing a lawsuit to challenge whether the patent should have been issued in the first place.
The PTAB is part of the Patent and Trademark Office and as of late has issued 25 written decisions concerning patent challenges, and upheld parts of challenged patents in some of them. The WSJ states that the board is currently staffed by 181 judges and was launched in September 2012 as part of the massive patent overhaul passed by Congress.
"It's fast and has a whole fleet of expert judges that understand the science and know the technology," Andrew Etkind, the general counsel of Garmin Ltd., a maker of GPS devices, told the WSJ.
The PTAB was created by Congress in 2011 after hearing endless concerns from corporations, especially in the technology sector, that they were getting hit with infringement lawsuits filed by patent trolls. The 2011 law allows the Patent Trial and Appeal Board to hear challenges to certain types of patents. The challenges are then requested by defendants fighting infringement claims in federal court.
A provision in the current bill moving through Congress would change the way the board reviews each patent, making challenges more difficult to win. Patent holders can also appeal the board's decisions to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, a specialized court that handles most of the nation's appeals in patent cases. While the end of the war on patent trolls is still not in sight, for smaller businesses who fall victim to bigger patent-holding corporations, it is comforting to hear that Congress is continuing to take the necessary steps to giving some power back to the little guys in the meantime.